Okay, so I am fully aware that this post will reveal my complete and utter geekiness. But I'm okay with that. I've made peace with my inner nerd. Also, remember that, as a writer, I tend to see everything as an unfolding story. Which will make sense in just a moment...
So, as many of you know, I'm a gamer. When not writing, I can usually be found on any one of my three consoles (PS3, Xbox 360, Wii) or on the PC with my Sims. When I have a new game, everything except writing sort of goes out the window, and I vanish from twitter for as long as it takes me to beat the game.
This season's addiction of choice is Bethesda's Skyrim.
I've done video game reviews before. You can even find some of them on this blog. This is not a review, exactly. This is more....well, I don't really know what this is. A story. Yes, that's what it is; this is the story of the life and death of a fictional AI character in a video game.
You've been warned.
Skyrim opens, as the Elder Scrolls always do, with you as a prisoner for some unknown, never-touched upon crime. In Morrowind you were a prisoner on a slave ship, in Oblivion you were stuck in the castle dungeon. In Skyrim, you have been captured with a group of rebels and taken to a fort, where you are to be executed with no trial. But, just as your head lands on the chopping block, a dragon swoops down and attacks. You escape, and after fighting your way through the fort's underground tunnels (filled with giant spiders, why are there always giant spiders?), you emerge into the huge, wide world of Skyrim.
Your first task, assuming you don't go tromping about the world and run smack first into wolves and bandits, is to head to the sleepy little village of Riverwood and meet your fellow ex-prisoner, or ex-captor, deciding which path you decided to take earlier in the game. Riverwood is more of a stopping point where you can sell all that stuff you looted from slain enemies before moving on to the larger city of Whiterun, up the road. You can get a few "starter quests" here as well, including one that has you fetching a stolen item from a group of bandits.
It's also where you meet an elf named Faendal.
Faendal is your first potential follower in the game (assuming you went to Riverwood first, like you were supposed to). He's a bit strange looking, and is in a messy love triangle with a handsome Nord named Sven and a woman named Camilla. Both Sven and Faendal like Camilla, and both try to get you to help them win her. As I was playing a fellow wood elf, and because Sven struck me as an ancient Nordic jock meathead, I decided to help out Faendal. Once he became my friend, he followed me to the bandit's hideout to help retrieve that stolen item, and fought bravely at my side against bandits, undead draugr, and giant spiders.
That was our first, and only, adventure together.
I'm a lone adventuring type. Even if I have the option to let someone join me, I usually opt out. Because Skyrim's followers will unerringly stand in doorways, push you over cliffs, step on a trap trigger the moment you're in the danger zone, and so on. I had to do one quest with a brute named Farkas, or as I like to call him "sir Clanks-a-lot," because he couldn't sneak to save his life. Once, he rushed past me to get to the big bad at the end of a dungeon, just as I was lining up for a sneak shot in the doorway, and blew our cover. I shut the door on them both and went and sat in a dark corner while they duked it out. Hey, Farkas was a quest NPC; he couldn't be killed.
But I digress...
Faendal was the one follower who could hold his own. His sneak skill was better then mine, he never triggered trap plates, and he would stand back and pop baddies with his arrows instead of rushing between me and my target and getting whacked in the back of the head (cough Lydia cough). I rather liked Faendal. But because it is possible, and very likely, for followers to die trailing you about the countryside, I left him in Riverwood with the knowledge that he was living out a peaceful life with Camilla.
(Faendal. He usually has a shirt on in game, but I like this image. :D)
Then, many many hours of game time later, I returned to Riverwood for the current quest, and was attacked by an Elder dragon.
My first Elder dragon, no less. I'd been attacked by several dragons before, or I would see them soaring overhead, looking for things to accost, because that's what dragons do. I would usually be in the middle of a quest when this happened, and would hide until the dragon continued on its merry way, and I continued on mine. Hey, I wasn't being cowardly; I'd killed several of them already, as its impossible to get through an hour of Skyrim without running into one. And knowing they would continue to pop up throughout the game, I knew I wasn't missing anything by killing yet another dragon.
But this Elder dragon landed right the center of Riverwood, looking for me obviously, and attacked. It was a tough fight. Riverwood's guards and several villagers joined in as well, and together we tried to defeat this monster that had come out of nowhere. After we finally killed the beast (which went to a rather cool cutscene of me leaping onto the dragon's head and stabbing it with my sword), it collapsed, turned into a skeleton as I devoured its soul (its a dragonborn thing), and I looked around for casualties. Not too bad, for a dragon attack, anyway. A couple no-name guards had perished, no one important...
...Oh. Oh, Faendal.
There he was, lying in the grass, his bow beside him. He had perished fighting the dragon, defending his home. And, looking down at his body, I actually felt sad. Sad that this fictional character, this NPC in a video game, had died.
I couldn't leave him there in the road. In Skyrim, bodies don't disappear; he would be there every time I came back to Riverwood, and I couldn't have that. So, I took the key to his home, dragged his body to the river flowing right outside the village, and let the currant take him away. I watched his body until it disappeared downstream, then went to his home. Inside his simple cottage, I placed one of the dragon's bones I'd collected from the beast on his bed, and left feeling quite melancholic over the turn of events.
This got me thinking.
In a novel, this would be a turning point in the story. This would be the part where the reluctant hero would curse all dragonkind and vow to wipe them all out of existence. No more hiding from dragons, hoping they would pass him by. No more fighting them just for self-defense. With Faendal's death, the hero swears vengeance upon the monsters that killed his friend, and will now rush into battle wholeheartedly, in Faendal's memory.
Hey, that would make a pretty good book...
So, there was a point to this long, rambling post. And its one I've made on several occasions. Those who say video games do nothing but rot your brains are wrong. A video game is a story, just like any novel, one that is told a bit differently, but a story just the same. And if a video game can nearly move me to tears for the death of a fictional NPC, then I'd say its done a pretty good job.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Check out this post for another Skyrim character death story. It's hilarious, but it also gives me a bit of hope that I'm not the only crazy obsessed geek out there. :D
Until next time, I'll be fighting dragons.